Saari Residence


Saari Residence has been awarded the EcoCompass certificate

Kuva: Otto-Ville Väätäinen

In January this year, the Saari Residence for artists and researchers was awarded the EcoCompass environmental certificate. The EcoCompass certificate was awarded in recognition of our concrete work for the environment and required an approved audit. This certificate demonstrates the Saari Residence’s commitment to continuous improvement and the development of our environmental work.

The EcoCompass tool is an environmental management system owned by the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation and is based on the international ISO 14001 standard. For the EcoCompass certificate, an organisation must meet certain criteria, including identifying the most significant environmental impacts of its operations and continuously developing its operations to be more environmentally friendly.

Environmental responsibility is part of Kone Foundation’s strategy. Accountability plays a key role in day-to-day operations also at the Saari Residence.  We wanted to further develop the existing environmental responsibility goals of the residence with the help of the EcoCompass environmental management system, which is designed to help organisations identify, monitor and reduce the environmental impacts of their operations.

Our goal was to harmonise our operations with the help of EcoCompass. “The EcoCompass process has been an illuminating cross-section of all our operations from the perspective of environmental responsibility. It helped us realise that we have already come a long way in our environmental work, but we also found new, smaller and bigger ways to develop our operations from the perspective of environmental responsibility and to be more ambitious. Our special development target is to safeguard biodiversity in the grounds and heritage environment of the Saari Manor,” says Leena Kela, Residency Director of the Saari Residence.

Almost two years of construction work

We started to incorporate the EcoCompass system at the beginning of 2021 with the help of Jaana Eskola, coordinator of ecological residence activities, and the expert assistance provided by EcoCompass. We started mapping the environmental impacts of our operations with the help of the carbon footprint measurement made of Kone Foundation’s operations, among other things. The measurement helped us set goals for ourselves and clarified the environmental impacts and environmental risks arising from our operations.

The measurement revealed that, for example, quite a large part (19%) of the entire Foundation’s carbon footprint was created by the major renovation of the Saari Residence’s historical buildings. In addition, 25 per cent of the carbon footprint of the Saari Residence alone (not including that of the rest of Kone Foundation) formed from residents’ travel: only 19 per cent of the residents travelled there by air, yet air travel caused as much as 91 per cent of the emissions from the travel of all residents.

In defining our goal, we focused on three larger entities in EcoCompass: diversity, environmental communication and sustainable procurement. With the help of EcoCompass, we have enhanced, for example, our biodiversity work within the manor grounds through grazing and restoration work. We have improved the residence’s recycling and waste management and invested in sustainable mobility.

We encourage those arriving at the residence to take ecological issues into account in their own activities and grant support for more ecological and low-emission travel than flying. At Saari Residence, to reduce emissions from local travel, we have had a leased electric car since the autumn of 2020, and we also offer residents bicycles to use.

Our Promise to the Environment

To obtain EcoCompass certification, an organisation must meet and commit to the 10 criteria set by the programme. After mapping the environmental impacts of our operations, we drew up an environmental programme, including objectives and measures, following the criteria, and we also formulated our own environmental pledge:

  • Ecological residence activities enable and support new thinking and insights and nurture the transformative power of art. 
  • The activities of the residence are defined by eco-social learning.
  • The residence sets ecological sustainability as a priority in its procurement decisions.
  • The residence is an experimental forerunner that communicates and shares information on the best ecological practices with other operators in the field.
  • The residence nurtures the unique nature of the Saari Residence’s cultural and traditional environment and maintains biodiversity in its area.
Photo: Jussi Virkkumaa

Insights and the transformative power of art

In our ecological residence activities, it is important for us to enable insights for residents during their residency, both at the practical level and the level of thought. Art and its potential for change are key to generating insights and understanding.

The residence enables insights through various study circles and workshops focusing on different topical themes or, for example, through walks based on observing your own experience, led by an invited artist or some other expert with knowledge of the perspectives of ecology and sustainability. We also take the residents on excursions to the area surrounding the Saari Manor, during which they can explore, for example, birds, plants or mushrooms, depending on the season. We have held workshops on building nesting boxes for various birds in cooperation with the local nature conservation association to support biodiversity in the Saari area and the nearby waterfowl habitat.

Taking care of the artists and researchers working at the Saari Residence and their peace of mind is at the core of the residence’s activities. In addition to environmental responsibility, our values include social and psychological sustainability, which we strive to practice through care, diversity and equality. We take them into account already during the application process, which is designed to also reach out to artists outside the western residency sector and in which we follow the practices of responsible evaluation.

We are developing the residence into the safest possible space in a sustainable way, also in terms of accessibility. In the renovation of the Saari Residence’s main building, completed in autumn 2022, the accessibility of the building’s first floor was improved by, among other things, adding a lift and removing some of the thresholds inside the building.

Eco-social awareness is a holistic responsibility

To us, eco-social awareness means social, cultural and ecological responsibility for the human race, other species and the environment. Eco-social awareness is reflected in all of Kone Foundation’s operations in many ways: in 2017, the Foundation established the Kulla nature reserve in Kemiönsaari to compensate for the consumption of natural resources resulting from the Foundation’s operations, and in 2021, the Foundation donated a 1,440-hectare forest area in Sanginjoki, Oulu, to the Finnish state for conservation.

At the international Saari Residence for artists and researchers, we engage in the development of residence activities by experimenting and acting ecologically on a long-term basis. Our goal is to pioneer sustainable operating models in the international residency sector and to develop our operations responsibly.

Sustainable procurement

In our sourcing, we favour high-quality products from responsible producers and, where possible, products with a smaller carbon footprint that are made and sourced in Finland. We also encourage our residents to think about their consumption patterns and buy their food and supplies once a week during a joint trip to the store with the other residents. All the food we serve is plant-based and produced as responsibly as possible.

An experimental pioneer

An essential part of our environmental pledge is communicating and sharing information about best sustainable practices with other actors in the industry. We are constantly developing our communication by experimenting with different ways of transmitting the information.

In 2022, we published the English-language podcast series Reviving the Wild, which explores four different topics relating to the everyday activities of the Saari Residence. In the podcast episodes, journalist Miia Laine and various expert guests discuss our relationship with animals, the fragility of modern forests and the importance of trees, wild food, food security, regenerative agriculture and healthy soil. You can listen to the episodes on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

The Saari Residence has co-founded and participates in the Nordic Alliance of Artists’ Residencies on Climate Action (NAARCA) network, which includes seven artist residencies from the Nordic countries and Scotland. The first part of the 8-part podcast series TESTING GROUNDS, produced by NAARCA, was released at the end of January. In this English-language podcast series, artists, researchers and activists from across the Nordic countries and Scotland reflect from the perspective of different artist residencies on the question, ‘How can artist residencies serve as testing grounds for new – and better – ways of living and working, as the climate crisis accelerates?’

We protect biodiversity and the cultural and traditional environment

Kone Foundation cherishes the special nature of the Saari Residence’s cultural and traditional environment and maintains biodiversity in the area. Diversity work is an important part of the Saari Residence’s surroundings and its unique milieu.

We have increased the number of forest pastures and meadows in the residence’s area, and in the summer of 2023, they will be grazed by cows and sheep according to the rotational grazing principles.

We are also collaborating with the Department of Biology at the University of Turku. In addition to a species inventory, there are two master’s theses related to species in the area under preparation. The project with the University of Turku involves examining the relationship between grazing and species diversity through ten experimental areas, some of which are located outside the pasture areas. The interim report of the species inventory completed in the spring of 2022 showed that while there are many least-concern species in the Saari Residence area, there are also seven threatened species, including the critically endangered hylochares cruentatus, squamapion vicinum and ocypus aeneocephalus beetles.

In 2022, we started cooperation with the Department of Landscape Architecture at Aalto University through the Beyond sustainability 2.0 project. The aim is to strengthen the biodiversity of species in the residence’s area and to create a regenerative relationship with nature and an understanding of the deep interconnectedness between humans and nature. During the project, two master’s theses in landscape architecture will be carried out to transform traditional thinking related to landscapes into a new approach in which the landscape and people are seen as one, feeding off each other, and which examines how biodiversity and multispecies systems can be reconciled with cultural-historical values.

The Saari Residence is committed to managing its surroundings following the management guidelines of the Finnish Heritage Agency, taking into account biodiversity and related perspectives. The milieu of the Saari Residence is culturally and historically significant: its buildings are protected, it is a historical monument site listed by the Finnish Heritage Agency and a built cultural heritage site of national importance. Situated close to the Saari Residence, the Mietoistenlahti bay is one of the most valued waterways for birdwatching in Finland and an important resting place for migrating birds.

EcoCompass certificate requires continuous work

In the final phase of the three-phase EcoCompass process in mid-December 2022, an external auditor checked whether the criteria we had set for the certificate were met. As a result, the Saari Residence was granted the EcoCompass certificate on 12 January 2023, valid for three years.  Receiving the certificate does not mean the end of the development of sustainable residence activities. On the contrary, a key requirement is the continuous improvement and development of our operations while maintaining the goals already achieved.